Asking the Right Questions

This June and July, I will be traveling the country to conduct interview trainings at law firms before the on-campus recruiting season begins.  I have done this for more than 66 law firms over the last 21 years. I truly believe it’s one of the most valuable trainings we offer law firms. The reason I say this is because the majority of lawyers have not learned how to interview candidates effectively. Please know that I love working with attorneys, and respect their intellects enormously, but this is a very particular skill set.

There are two specific things many attorneys do that do not work during the interview process:

  1. They ask questions to try and figure out what is “wrong” with the candidate.  Their legal training leads them to focus on what does not fit and they often spend valuable interview time asking questions like, “Why would someone who has a successful career in finance want a position in law firm?” These types of questions put the candidate on the defensive and the interviewer does not actually learn useful information about the candidate.
  2. Attorneys often ask questions that are they are curious about, rather than using their limited interview time to ask behaviorally based questions that will shed light on how the candidate will perform if hired.  These esoteric questions that reflect curiosity rather than qualification sound like ”So is X college as good as the hype? They didn’t admit me and I’ve always wondered.”

I am not making this stuff up!  I saw and heard it when I was head of legal recruiting, and I hear it from current candidates when they interview with at law firms.

When I conduct interview training at law firms, there are two main goals I focus on for how to interview a candidate:

  1. Ask questions to assess whether this candidate has the skills and motivation to do the job.
  2. Ask and answer questions so the candidate gets a sense of your firm culture and leaves with a positive impression of the firm – even if they don’t get an offer!  Every interview is a branding opportunity.

There are also specific interview success factors I would urge you to focus on when interviewing candidates. They are:

  1. Self-motivation: people who are internally driven to do a great job and believe in their ability to accomplish goals.
  2. Grit: candidates who know how to persevere and have a long-term perspective.
  3. Practical Intelligence: individuals who know how to apply the knowledge they have to solve problems and make decisions.
  4. Results-Driven: people who focus on results, not just the process. They use their intelligence to produce useful end products. They also invest their time and skills wisely and do not procrastinate or distract themselves.
  5. Accountability: candidates who take responsibility and don’t blame others when things go wrong.

By developing good interview skills and focusing on the traits that matter most, you will identify and attract the best candidates for your Firm.

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